"This study will enable hospital administrators to better prioritize their spending by allowing them to compare the costs of interventions with the savings accrued by avoiding infections," Katz wrote.
As expensive and numerous as these infections are, Zimlichman cautions that the research project left out numerous types of infections. For example, the paper is limited to only to five types of infections that occur only in certain types of hospitals paid under Medicare's Inpatient Prospective Payment System. It excludes infections acquired in long-term care, cancer specialty, pediatric, inpatient rehabilitation, psychiatric, critical access hospitals, and most hospitals in the state of Maryland.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated the full roster of costs would be between $20 billion to $40 billion a year, with 1.7 million patients infected annually.
Zimlichman says policy changes should focus on three areas. First, he says, there's a need for more federal financial support for infection surveillance and quality improvement initiatives. Second, Medicare's non-payment policies should include more types of infections.
And third, payers should move more quickly to bundled payment and accountable care organization arrangements so hospitals have more incentive to prevent these costly adverse events.